On the Other Hand

On the Other Hand

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I thought I'd give you an insight into my foray down into the dark reaches of tech - having spent a day with Microsoft. No one told me this, but apparently there are those who may think Apple UK might be touchy about an Apple Distinguished Educator visiting Microsoft? Hey, I signed nothing, and as a sceptic, I'm sure Apple UK would be more than interested to hear feedback, however that will not happen, unless someone is reading this. The fact is, it makes sense to better understand just exactly what the various options are like in the marketplace. I am an educator first on foremost, and it was with that in mind that I opened my eyes, listened and took it all in.

So - I sit here at home with a Surface RT tablet. This is the device that Microsoft took a $900m hit on because they are not selling. I felt it was a little cheeky to turn to education for a bail out, but then MS seems to have suddenly woken up to a whole new market, albeit an expensive one to buy into. You may not be aware of this, but Microsoft are selling Surface tablets into schools for just £133.00. Now, being that sceptic, I put on the brave face, gritted my teeth and got down to using one.

……and you know what. It wasn’t so bad after all.

Within 30 minutes, I got it.

This is a device with a split personality, and neither of those psychotic twins is quite ready for working in schools, but one is close. It is something that immediately took me back to the days when Apple first brought in OSX. There world was certainly confused for a while, but at least we knew where it was all going!
Two things struck me immediately about Windows 8 and Metro. Just how well "Metro" worked (see, I said it) was one, and the build quality of the hard ware was the other. Yes, it is a bit square edged, slightly uncomfortable to carry; the soft keyboard is cheap feeling, but it worked well; the form factor is more movie than A5 (Paper size. Many people miss the fact that the iPad is, in landscape, a pretty perfect A5). You may not be aware, but with this tablet you get Windows 8 (or rather, you get a version of Windows 8 which cannot run standard Windows applications). So, could there be an advantage? I questioned the obvious one - malware, the bane of the Windows world, but virus writing spoilers have not started on it yet. You get Office 365 included in the price. At the moment schools can buy these devices with 32Gb of storage for £133; it is almost as cheap as buying the licence for Office alone.

Surface RT doesn't have any "killer" applications that I can find, but it has one seemingly great advantage over the iPad that only just dawned on me in the last couple of days.

You can set up multiple user accounts.

The management of devices in education is one loose thread that Apple is only just getting around to looking at in iOS7, but Surface has it from the start. Imagine a class set. All the students need to do is log in as themselves.......no messing about with configurator etc. Add a USB port and a memory card slot, and you have a pretty neat little beast, good for 10 - 12 hours use.

When we finished the day Microsoft virtually fell over themselves to let me take a Surface away.....and while they didn't give them away, they are letting me buy at the school price. I'm not complaining.

At the standard price of £300 odd pounds, I see no reason why I'd want to entertain a Surface, but the main customer is NOT me, but school. Of course Microsoft cannot really continue to sell out at a loss, and that fact was not lost on them either. There are some debates (not heard here though, I may add), that the RT Surface may die. Let’s hope not ( Did I just say that!).

What I shouldn’t have been surprised about was that the Microsoft people I met were accommodating, genuinely interested in me as an educators. It was a pleasure to be treated like a customer, instead of a "hanger on". I have even been approached to help MS put together a strategy to help them get a better understanding of how to foothold in the UK schools. Apparently 10,000 units have already shipped to Scottish schools.

The attitude I met was really refreshing. It reminded me of Apple 20 years ago.

To me, this visit, and the day were really useful to get a first hand exposure to what the grass is like on the other side of the fence.

I have to say, the way Apple UK are treating its longstanding friends' in education, it is in danger of losing it's biggest advantage....... The loyal and stalwart supporters of the last 25 years plus have been their strongest, most undemanding and unpaid sales force. Don’t expect such loyally from the more recently converted. LIsten to the right voices……….Voices……oices…..ices….ces…es..s..s..

Am I a convert?

No, not me.

Not yet.


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AppleTV in the Classroom/Boardroom

AppleTV in the Classroom/Boardroom


You know all those problems about getting the computer to work with a projector?
The embarrassment factor (especially when you are an ICT person) when you just can’t get things to work together seamlessly?
You have to go and seek the technician because the right cable doesn’t seem to be there - and then when you get it there simply seems to be no rhyme or reason it doesn’t work?

Come on folks, this is MODERN TECHNOLOGY. It should just work!

Well, it can, and it will, and Apple TV could be a great blessing and a massive time/money/embarrassment saver. Here’s why:

AppleTV. It doesn’t tell you a lot. It’s made by Apple (whoops, if you are in Blackpool ICT - that was the wrong thing to say for a start). Its TV? What TV?

Lets get one thing straight from the start. Yes, AppleTV receives TV, you can rent media, movies, listen to streamed radio, YouTube, Flicker and Apple’s own iCloud over the internet. It connects by wire or WiFi, or both..... but there is more. It was HD 720p, it now delivers full HD, full HD sound and surround sound (via optical).

But there is more. More is ‘AirPlay’. What is AirPlay? Well, you could already stream movies and content from a Mac (or PC) on your network. That is a given, but AirPlay is something else. Using a Mac, an iPod, iPhone, iPad you can now stream content from that to the AppleTV in realtime, watching your HD content, or listening to music fully in control of the source. It seems like magic, but it is not. Its just plain, simple Apple design. AirPlay enabled apps are now all over the internet, and each allows you to magically share your device with others in the room (or in other rooms for that matter).

I cannot say enough about AirPlay, so read more here:


So? So you can send content to the AppleTV - hence to the screen. But the same is true of any suitably equipped TV or Projector!

Now for boardrooms this means no more getting up and going to “the front” to present. No more fiddling with cables and wires, switching over, calling ICT (because you will not need them!).

In the Classroom, students have the ultimate access to “show and tell”. There are controls of all kinds now available, but imagine students presenting materials they have researched, collected, presented and edited, shared with the class, the group, the school. the college, the parents.....and all in an intuitive, simple to manage way.

If you want to know more contact me.

The revolution in the way we deliver education, and the way students can deliver creative ideas can change forever..... TOMORROW.

Adjunct: I was approached by the daughter of a well-known Educational Guru who wanted to better connect up her learners in a Primary School. She wanted the pupils to be able to present at any time, on one of three or four HD screens. This was in early 2010 (I think).

My assessment, and the research done suggested HDMI distribution boxes, cables etc. It was a solution, but the cost was to be in thousands. Overnight AppleTV at approx. £100, saved a £1000.

You see, when a solution can do that, there are no requirements to go back to first principles. Even the most ‘challenged’ ICT person can understand that.

So ACCESSIBILITY. Like all of Apple’s iOS5 devices, AppleTV has the capabilities to provide its full accessible feature set to users. It can read out aloud what is on the screen, it can be programmed in a ’Speech’ mode. All in all it must be the most open and accessible tool available.

This is a dream come true, and is why Apple TV should be at the heart of any new learning space.










...and that is just the start.

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iPhone launch 4S

iPhone launch 4S and the opportunities for Educational use. Rumours...

There’s been a lot of speculation around the October 4th launch event by Apple. Too many people jumped on the bandwagon about it being iPhone 5. That’ll have to wait, but what we are now seeing is something we should have foreseen in the runes. It was a little like the weather. What we got was not what we expected. Summer didn’t finish, we just got more of it, and better. So it is with Phone 4S.

By the way, most of this article was modified from Lasky’s newsletter. A great source of information about modern electronics sensibly written.

So, did you pour over the launch. I caught up with it midstream and was generally quite heartened, but over all not surprised.

iPhone 4S
There have been rumours floating around the web for a while that Apple will release a slightly upgraded version of the hugely popular iPhone 4. They’ve done it before, when they upgraded the iPhone 3G to the iPhone 3GS and it would be an easy way for them to regularly release new phones. When no new phone showed up in summer as expected, this one went on the back-burner for a bit – after all, why would Apple make us wait longer than usual for just a minor update?
Over the last few weeks, rumours began suggesting there could be two new versions – a full blown iPhone 5, backed up by a cheaper model based on the iPhone 4. In one final twist, it seems that Vodafone Germany let the cat out of the bag last night by listing iPhone 4 covers on it’s site as compatible with the iPhone 4S.
Assuming this isn’t just some admin error, this tells us that the iPhone 4S will be the same size and shape as the iPhone 4. We should expect a faster processor and perhaps more memory to go with a software upgrade.
There’s no mention of the iPhone 5 on the Vodafone site, so we’ll just have to wait and see whether Apple will announce one or two new phones tonight.
Advanced voice control assistant
Last year, Apple snapped up a start-up company called Siri, who specialised in intelligent voice control for mobile devices. The rumours started straight away that voice control would feature heavily in future versions of iPhone and, when Apple announce an event with the line “Let’s talk iPhone”, now it seems pretty certain.
The new interface, rumoured to be called “Assistant”, would allow you to talk naturally to your phone while it works out what you want. For example you could say “book a meeting with John at 5pm today” and it would add a new appointment to your calendar, while sending an invitation to John. The iPhone’s voice controls are already pretty good, but this would be an excellent upgrade.
iPhone 5 gets sleek new design
The iPhone 5 will probably look very different from the iPhone 4, particularly if it has to stand out from the iPhone 4S. The MacRumors site has a detailed review of some apparently leaked designs for the new device. These seem to be slimmer, with a slightly larger screen. Notably the design completely removes the wrap-around antenna design which provoked the “antennagate” fuss last year. Other commentators, such as Apple pundit John Gruber are more sceptical about this design and it’s worth a read of his article to get a balanced view.
Use your iPhone 5 as a digital wallet with NFC
We’ve covered mobile payments a few times before on PluggedIn and it seems a good fit for Apple and the iPhone 5. Near Field Communication (NFC) is a technology which allows you to make small payments by simply swiping your phone over a reader, similar to an Oyster card and some credit cards.
We know that Apple has been looking in to this technology for a while, as Engadget reported last year. It ties in really well with the fact that their existing iTunes store holds credit card details for all users anyway so they could probably handle the whole process on their own. This would help if they decide not to team up with an established player like Google Wallet.
iCloud and iOS 5
Apple’s online storage and streaming service, iCloud is due for an official launch any time now, as is the latest version of their mobile software, iOS 5. It’s pretty much a dead cert that these will be released with the new device.
What else will be new?
Those are the rumours we’re most excited about, but there are plenty more things Apple could do, like a better camera. What would you most like to see in the new iPhone?

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 02:55 AM PDT
Kindle Fire vs iPad 2 vs Galaxy Tab 7.7 vs HTC Flyer

Now that the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire has been announced, we thought it would be a good craic to slam its specs up against those of its key rivals.
Of course, this has to include Apple’s peerless iPad 2, but instead of plumping for the gorgeous Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, we’ve chosen to compare it with its new sibling the Galaxy Tab 7.7 because of its size.
And to complete our line-up, we’ve plumped for the HTC Flyer – another 7-inch tablet that, like the Kindle Fire, is based on a heavily customised version of Android 2.x.
Operating system
The Kindle Fire runs its own special OS. But it’s not been developed from the ground up by Amazon – it’s based on Android 2.x, rumoured to be Android 2.2 FroYo. The HTC Flyer also has a heavily customised version of Android – it’s based on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The iPad 2 runs iOS 4 (soon to be iOS 5) and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 runs the tablet-specific Android 3.0 Honeycomb.

The Kindle Fire is slated at $199 in the US, which would probably translate to a £199 price point in the UK – although there has been no confirmation of a UK release as yet. As we know, iPad 2 retails from £399 for 16GB, while the HTC Flyer has finally come down to a decent price point for the 16GB version – £329 and up. We don’t know a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 UK price as yet.
Thickness and weight
The 7-inch Kindle Fire is 11.4mm thick, substantially more than the 8.8mm-thick 9.7-inch iPad 2. The 7-inch HTC Flyer is even thicker at 13.2mm. The thinnest accolade goes to the Galaxy Tab 7.7 at just 7.9mm thick. As for weight, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 is the lightest at 335g, the Kindle Fire is 414g, the HTC Flyer is 421g, while the iPad 2 clocks in at 601g for the Wi-Fi version.

Screen resolution
The Kindle Fire has a resolution of 1,024 x 600 as does the HTC Flyer. The iPad 2 is next in line at 1,024 x 768 (remember that’s a 9.7-inch display too) but top of the pile is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 with a 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution 7.7-inch display.
Screen type
The Kindle Fire and iPad 2 have IPS LCD multi-touch panels, while the HTC Flyer has a capacitive LCD screen. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the first tablet to feature a Super AMOLED Plus display. It’s hugely bright and super clear.
All the tablets are dual-core aside from the HTC Flyer which uses a still-speedy 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. The iPad 2 uses the Apple A5 (below), while the Galaxy Tab 7.7 uses a (probably Samsung) 1.4GHz model. The Kindle Fire has a 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP chip.
Memory and storage
The Kindle Fire has 512MB of memory, like the iPad 2. However, it only has 8GB of internal memory which by anybody’s reckoning is quite poor for a device based around content. The iPad 2 comes in 16, 32 and 64GB variants as does the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. The Flyer comes in 16 and 32GB memory versions. The Samsung and HTC devices also have 1GB of internal memory.
Camera and video
The Kindle Fire doesn’t have a mic or camera – something which a lot of commentators believe is a sizeable hole in the Fire’s armoury. All the other tablets are capable of 720p HD video and have front and back cameras. The HTC Flyer wins the day here, with a 5MP rear snapper.

The Kindle Fire only connects to the web via Wi-Fi, there is no cellular 3G data. All the other tablets are available in Wi-Fi only plus Wi-Fi + 3G versions should you wish. The Kindle Fire is also the only tablet not to support Bluetooth or GPS too. Surely Amazon will need to launch a 3G model at some point.
Battery life
While the iPad 2 and Samung Galaxy Tab 7.7 cite a battery life of 10 hours, the Kindle Fire says its battery life is 8 hours. The HTC Flyer battery life is “from 8 hours”.

Obviously the Kindle Fire isn’t out in the UK yet, but if it does come here for £199 or so then it will still be a steal. Amazon’s problem is if people buy the Kindle Fire expecting the full iPad-a-like tablet experience – they won’t get that. The Kindle Fire is a worthy content device, but surely Amazon will need to top-out its range with a full 3G tablet to truly compete with high-end tablets like the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7.
Modified from
Posted: 04 Oct 2011 06:35 AM PD

iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 – last minute rumour round-up



ESSIE survey on the way..

European Survey of Schools: ICT in Education (ESSIE)

The objective of the European Survey of Schools: ICT in Education is to benchmark progress in 31 countries (EU27, Iceland, Norway, Croatia and Turkey) in ICT in education by surveying students, head teachers and teachers on the availability and use, including opinions and attitudes, of ICT in schools, thus contributing to the development of updated, relevant and efficient indicators as well as to the establishment of a long-term and continuous monitoring system on ICT access, use and impact.
The survey of schools is one of a series within the European Union's cross-sector benchmarking activities comparing national progress to i2010 and EU2020 goals. It is the first Europe-wide survey of schools' ICT for six years, following Europe 2002 and EU2005 surveys.
The Survey is funded by the European Commission Information Society and Media Directorate General. It is a partnership between European Schoolnet and the Service d’Approches Quantitatives des faits éducatifs in the Department of Education of the University of Liège.
The focus of the study is on developing indicators and gathering and analysing data on students’ use, competence, and attitudes to ICT. Teacher and school level factors will be investigated as regards their impact on students. The main areas of investigation are: 

  • Students' digital competence and attitudes towards ICT
  • Students' ICT use in /out of classroom
  • Teachers' professional ICT use in/out of classroom
  • Teachers’ attitudes towards pedagogical ICT use
  • School infrastructure, connectivity and ICT access
  • School leadership in ICT and ICT for pedagogy Under the guidance of a Steering Committee, work comprises five stages.

Under the guidance of a Steering Committee, work comprises five stages.

 1 Survey Development

The survey comprises three questionnaires derived from an analytical framework and based on the results of a literature review. Two questionnaires focus on head teachers and class teachers at primary, lower secondary, upper secondary academic and upper secondary vocational education levels. They enable comparison with the surveys used by the eEurope 2002 and 2005 initiatives, for example Benchmarking Access and Use of ICT in European Schools), but are enriched and updated, addressing ICT use in and out of school. The third questionnaire is for two groups of students: one at ISCED 2 (grade 8 – 13.5 years old on average) and the other at ISCED 3 (grade 11 – 16.5 years old on average). The same questionnaire will be administered to both groups of students and addresses ICT use both in and out of school. Questionnaires will only contain closed questions, on facts (access and use, for example) and on opinions (statements, for example) and will be piloted in the UK and France, then revised and translated into the 23 official languages of the 31 countries.

 2 Sampling

National coordinators nominated by education ministries support the sampling process. Using official school databases in each of the 31 countries, they prepare lists according to guidelines in a sampling manual, enabling 300 schools to be randomly selected at each of four levels: primary, lower secondary, upper secondary academic and upper secondary vocational level, in total around 1200 schools in each country. In each school, the head teacher is to complete the head teacher questionnaire and one class is randomly selected: at grades 4 (on average 9.5 year old pupils), 8 and 11. Three teachers (one in primary school) teaching that class are then randomly selected; they are to complete the teacher questionnaire. Only students in the grade 8 and 11 classes are to complete the student questionnaire. At school level, the randomised sampling of the class and the teachers will be done by a school coordinator identified by the head teacher and supported by the national coordinator, guidance materials in their language and a video training session.

3 Data Collection

The survey is completed online by heads, teachers and students, using a platform designed and managed by a data processing centre. In a few countries, questionnaires may nevertheless be administered on paper because of lack of equipment available (mostly in primary schools). National coordinators monitor the collection process, following-up response rate, sending reminders if there is no answer to automatic reminders, etc. The data collection period begins six weeks after the start of the school year and ends in November. There are incentives for questionnaire completion.

4 Data analysis

In addition to cleaning and codification processes, standard statistical tools are applied to each query. The statistical analysis will provide comparisons and trends analysis with past data collections, analysis of new data, country by country analysis (31 country reports) and an article. The analysis will be enriched with a qualitative analysis to identify facts to be investigated and hypotheses to be statistically tested by the data, and provide opportunities for understanding and clarification. The qualitative analysis will use existing contextual data (e.g. household equipment from EUROSTAT) and information at country level (contained in the annual European Schoolnet Insight country reports, for example) to enrich the analysis.

5 Reporting

Draft findings are presented and discussed at a stakeholder workshop early in 2012 and the survey final report delivered in spring 2012.